By Stephanie DePrez
One month ago I posted on Facebook that I will be voting yes on Prop 115 to end late-term abortion in Colorado. As a progressive who works in the arts, with more than a few friends who’ve had or accompanied a partner through an abortion, I knew I was speaking to a mixed crowd. Many friends weighed in to challenge me, sharing articles and opinions in good faith. I value this challenge and honest political engagement. The following is the result of my due-diligence.
My initial take on the issue was that Coloradans have two trimesters to make the decision to abort, and Prop 115 isn’t radical or restrictive. It allows an exception for when the life of the mother is in danger. It doesn’t halt the right to end a pregnancy until the twenty-third week of pregnancy. Without doing any research, this looked like a reasonable law, and a way to preserve life that is viable outside of the womb. What I heard from friends, however (a few of whom have gone through abortions and know far more than I do), is that third-trimester abortions are very rare, and most often performed when a couple desiring to have a child is told that the child will not survive.
Let’s talk about viability. If you are carrying a healthy fetus at twenty-one weeks of pregnancy, there is a 70% chance that child can survive outside of the womb with zero to mild neurological issues if born. This info comes from the University of Iowa, looking at outcomes between 2006 and 2015. I have friends with preemies who have been born at twenty-two weeks and made it out of the hospital just fine.
Who’s getting these abortions? I found a report on late-term abortions put out by Democrats for Life Colorado that cites a conversation between Dr. Warren Hern of the Boulder Abortion Clinic, interviewed by Dr. Thomas J. Perille, an Internist at St. Joseph’s in Denver. Dr. Hern shared that there is no reason an abortion after twenty-two weeks would be deemed safer than delivery. This shocked me. It is not necessary to opt for abortion over premature delivery to preserve the life of the mother. This even applies when there is a true medical emergency and the life of the mother is in danger.
There’s still the issue of late-term abortions sought primarily due to a terminal diagnosis, which was stressed over and over by my friends and colleagues. Though this has been widely reported, the actual numbers to back it up are very hard to find. Dr. Diane Foster from the University of California San Francisco has said as much, and it’s her words that are quoted in the article from the Washington Post on third-trimester abortions that is frequently cited regarding this issue.
It turns out that literature stating that the majority of late-term abortions are due to fetal abormality doesn’t exist. The only number I could find comes from Dr. Hern of Boulder, in which he shares that over two-thirds of abortions he performs are elective and involve a healthy fetus, and of the remaining 30%, the main medical reason given is Down Syndrome. I have dear friends who work with other-abled adults in the L’arche community. This information makes me very, very uncomfortable.
There’s another aspect of this research I didn’t anticipate: the discovery of perinatal hospice. This is exactly what it sounds like. Perinatal hospice is available to parents who learn that their unborn child has a condition that will cause it to die soon before or after birth. Like any hospice program, it involves palliative (pain reduction and comfort) care for the terminal child and grieving mother, with an emphasis on making the experience as compassionate and supported as possible. Though this has no bearing on the law, it gave me great comfort to discover.
I applaud my community for requiring me to engage with this issue with the integrity it deserves. I feel comfortable voting yes on Prop 115, knowing that the little information we have points to a majority of late-term abortions being elective. I am especially driven by the knowledge that a third-trimester child is viable outside of the womb, and it is just as safe for the mother to deliver at that stage of pregnancy than end it. I also discovered this week that $9 million has been spent in our state to convince you to vote no, whereas $0.5 million has been spent advertising a yes vote. I invited my fellow Coloradans to do their own due diligence.
Stephanie DePrez is an opera singer, comedian and educator who grew up in Highlands Ranch. Last year she lived in Capitol Hill and taught at Arrupe Jesuit High School in Denver. She is currently living in Vienna on a Fulbright. http://www.stephaniedeprez.com